Well I decided to travel to another DXCC arriving at this one 06:25 local time after 36hrs of travel and 3 flights totalling 28hrs in cattle class. so was a bit cramped and sleep deprived. Why do check in agents insist on placing the crying kid next to you? I bet TXF doesn’t have that problem Not the best planning ever but working for a living so that was all the holiday I had left but specially as I still had to check the station and put up antennas before the off (10pm local time) and somewhere in there shower change and sleep was not ideal.
Sleep was discounted as negotiable as everything had to be in place before the off. Sleep could happen after the contest, caffeine would have to see to that. So set to work checking over the station and antennas.
I was using E51AND shack which is great for 10/15/20m where it has 5el Yagi and 7el logperiodic on a tower and the odd DX visitor loves working 20m. He has a 1.5KW linear so no problem hearing him, Band changes can be slow though and it is not a serious multi-band contest station as all antennas are rigged to the one tower. The station tower is 300m from the water edge, this meant that even though 2000+ miles of sea all around and a great ground mat existed the LF bands would see no advantage from the proximity to the sea. I was sent several recordings from UK after and knew I had a good signal into UK but it was not good to know that LF was going to be handicapped in this way.
Sure enough tropics had played havoc with the coax and what was good once now wasn’t so had to replace and re-use. I took a MiniVNA with me. We identified 3 long runs (all buried) that were suspect and managed some re-use and placed one run of Belkin 9913 (or should have been) snaking across the antenna field to a patch panel at the base of the tower. Piglets, yes Piglets tried to eat through that cable a couple days later along with a 30m GP I had also put up! Anyway 15m now worked well on RX.
The place the tower and antennas was in, was nicely cut grass, what I didn’t see before I ventured out to work were all the red ants, and mosquitos so ended up wearing socks and sandals else your feet would be covered in seconds or you got bitten as you stopped to put in a guy etc! Anyway antenna work in 32’C and 85% humidity is not fun.
I decided to check the amplifier, never having used one before, just hours before the off and checked the bands…. all seemed fine except 80m just could not find a match, then seemed I had. All at 100W so good to go turn on the PA….then I was greeted withloud fizz pop and then a show of sparks and puff of smoke, and the PA rapidly shutting down…oops have I killed the station (I had images of running the contest with the KX-3 that I retrieved from the luggage), all bands the RF In was dead, absolutely nothing heard. I contemplated running to the beach and setting up there.… no seems I discovered that in tropics and on 80m the feeder between PA and ATU at 1KW can be a tad fragile if the cable degrades! That was replaced as I hacked off a meter from the length of RG213 from the luggage, added PL259 and was all set again.
Tried a few practice cw cq’s on 40m just to see was the station working, was greeted with a wall of callers non of whom were going to be in BERU, oh goodie… so quickly rewrote a win-test Macro “NO NON BERU”, I think that button was hit more than any other all contest long. But it wasn’t BERU yet so only fair they can manage a QSO. I knew from the week before in UK that C6APY was still QRV, but was not going to be in BERU and had to manage a qso if for no other reason but to check could I later with BERU stations in carrib, so swung beam vaguely that way and bagged them just as breaking down.
45 mins left before the off so lets check out the bands…. 20, 15, 80 and 40 all seemed fine. 37 qso none of them were going to in BERU and maybe would leave me alone later… fat chance! 10m nothing heard, well too late now to fix anything that might be wrong… cq beru e51kta cq beru e51kta and 1st in the log was VK3BY (40m) followed by a whole string of VK and ZL’s whilst dodging the ever sneaky non-BERU callers who now tried partials to get in the log, they never did, and kept calling right through the contest, 1st VE was VE3JM (40m) after about an hour, by this point realised had zero RX directivity on 40m and could hear everyone from everywhere all at once so this was going to be fun! Dunno why as was not planned but at 11:00Z switched to 80m and then 20m to see if could hear anyone and picked up several more VE, VK and ZL . Looked like 80/40 and 20 would be wide open all night at this rate so settled in and worked as many stations as possible.
Changing bands when the non-beru callers got too much rather than when propagation suggested was a good idea, after a few rinse and spin cycles….at last somewhere new… YV1KX on 20m could a fabled UK opening be happening… I strained to hear anything, another no non-beru and sure enough there was a G garble garble…..so went dark for a bit and listened then just as thought time to move on G3SJJ followed quickly by M8A, Tom GM4FDM and a whole group of UK stations followed so I asked for NA to be quiet (please not that they listened) as I tried to pick out callers. Turn the AGC off, dsp off, filters off, turn the af gain up, add in 20db pre-amp so I was only riding the RF gain…madness I hear some say but that was only way it worked. Fine when callers are S4 but you still get the persistent NA non BERU at S9+20dB and it becomes a tad eye watering… if I seemed stunned every now and then that was why. I had to take the headphones off to stop the ears ringing for a bit and start all over, The between the ear AGC delay time was far too long and the attack being far too slow. G’s seems to dry up after an hour so back to VK, VE, ZL. 5W1SA popped up at 20:28 followed by a couple G4 which was nice surprise then time to turn the beam back to VK again.
Then until dawn local time worked VK & ZL until the inevitable band closing one after the other up to 00:00Z Knew there would be a short 15m opening at some point so grabbed the match sticks and a fresh coffee, turn the beam to VK and radio to 21MHz and just waited…. sending cq beru e51kta every few seconds…. Then at 04:41 it happened and VK’s started appearing, almost like someone turned on a tap… The beam on 15m can hear off the back too so listened for VE in between but heard none.
15m faded so back to 40m and time to try for the carrib and there was ZF2CA and 8P9IF, brief 80m when bagged E51PT as heard he was back on the bands, I tried for AF a few time through the night but never heard TXF or 9G I found out after they had been calling me on 20m you live and learn. 09:00 20m again until the end 9V, 9M6 and a VU appeared right in the dying seconds.
What was interesting was the 15m and 20m beam headings… UK was exactly opposite VK et al, but you also got all NA too which wasn’t ideal, Carrib was almost due east, AF was where no-one else was but never heard an AF station. It took about 3 mins to swing the beam through 180 degrees!
Now at this point contest over you’d usually put key down and go get some sleep but I though lets see… so went to 160m as noted the sloper I put up tuned and had some fun…. before local midnight then finally 1st sleep in 4 days.
Claimed score 3535
Break down… no idea but no 10m sadly.
189 QSO way off the leader boards but would have been more had I not had the non-beru callers.
Even with PA and antennas it honestly didn’t feel much different to operating qrp in the end with the small number of entrants. The extra RF was a curse though as I swear most of the callers were because of it.